Statement May 2020

Dear Audience,

One of the many beautiful aspects of a festival is to create a temporary space of ‘exception’. Festivals are used to exist only for a certain amount of time. Then they disappear until their next iteration. Every year since 1951, the Wiener Festwochen have taken place within the city of Vienna. But that will not be the case in 2020. And we all know why.

The unique coincidence between an artistic programme, a specific time and a specific place cannot be replaced or re-created. Nothing can compensate for this absence. As we look forward to the future, we are now preparing a new edition of the Wiener Festwochen, with theatrical and musical performances, movements, words and sounds to be collectively experienced. But this year, we are trying to look for alternative ways of sharing our artistic programme with you.

On 16 May, the opening speech by Milo Rau and Kay Sara that should have taken place at the Burgtheater will be revealed online and through the media. This will mark the ‘start’ of the festival. On the same day, we will publish a printed supplement with Der Standard that explores the festival’s programme and content in 2020, and echoes the voices from some of the artists we intended to invite in Vienna this May/June. Rather than having a promotional intention, it serves as a testimony to a festival that doesn’t happen …

Another platform for sharing our programme with you are digital tools, which over the last few weeks have been experiencing their ‘big moment’: a vast quantity of artistic projects has been happening online since the confinement measures began. From 15 May to 20 June, we will use the internet and social media, but in moderation. Every day, following the chronology of their appearance at the festival, each piece of the programme will be virtually evoked. A collection of ‘small gestures’ will occur. They refer to every work that can’t be presented. They may be taken from existing material or they can give insight to a creation still to be realised. Moving images, musical fragments, short texts. They take the form of conversations, workshops, video clips. Traces or promises, together they form a kind of archive for a festival that doesn’t happen …

But we do not want to forget the real, public space. From 2 June, Ho Tzu Nyen’s No Man II will animate the Kärntnertorpassage on Karlsplatz. Also at the beginning of June, curator Miguel A. López will transpose a prologue for the exhibition And if I devoted my life to one of its feathers?, a joint project by the Wiener Festwochen and Kunsthalle Wien, to 250 billboards all over the city.

Finally, depending on what will be allowed and possible to realise, a small programme of performances, comprised of a few pieces that were supposed to have been presented this spring at the Wiener Festwochen will take place later in the year. After months of lockdowns and restrictions, this should be a celebration of the importance of the live arts and their ability to broaden the physical public space and strengthen direct social interaction.

Christophe Slagmuylder, Artistic Director

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